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“She never listens to me…. I’m going to complain”

So grievances are a way that employees can make a formal complaint about a workplace issue, whether it involves another employee or a manager. Having looked at grievances from a manager’s point of view, let’s consider the issue from the employee’s perspective.

Grumpy, defensive, difficult… Dave knows what his manager Hayley thinks about him because he’s been told by their colleagues. Dave knows that she talks to him differently to other people and she never listens to his ideas. He thinks Hayley would be happy if he just resigned but he doesn’t want to. Dave thinks the situation is unfair and he’s decided to raise a grievance to force her to change her ways.

Dave has read the company’s grievance policy and looked into his rights by checking websites about employment law. He knows you can make a formal complaint using the grievance process and another manager will then step in, look at the issues and – he hopes – make Hayley listen to his point of view.

So he sets out his issues in a letter, hands it to Hayley and then waits to see what happens. He’s pleased that it seems to have rattled her, but ultimately he just wants someone to listen to him.

The next day, he gets a letter inviting him to a meeting with a manager later in the week and saying he can bring a colleague or a Trade Union representative. He decides to ask another employee to accompany him, for moral support. Dave is a little suspicious that the manager might have discussed the issues with Hayley and will just go through the motions before telling him, in effect, to shut up and get on with his work.


It’s a pleasant surprise when the manager gives him every chance to go through the points in his grievance, helping him to make things clear as well as asking what he wants the outcome of the process to be.

Dave says he just wants Hayley to treat him like the rest of their team and listen to his views. He accepts that she has the right, as the manage

A few days after the meeting, Dave receives a letter from the manager setting out the issues, the points made by both sides and the decision. We’re going to leave the decision to your imagination, but this milestone is rarely the end of the process.

After all, if Dave loses then he has the right to appeal so that the issues are reviewed by another manager. But whatever the outcome, Dave and Hayley still have to work together and they might now have a better understanding of each other’s points of view.r, to call the shots but feels it’s the way she talks to him that is the problem.

Grievances can be a cry for help, a protest or a tool to attack or rein in a manager. They can indicate communication problems, misunderstandings or that there are problems in the relationship between the employee and manager. Although they can be stressful for all the people involved, they can also lead to improved communication and working relationships.

Finally, here are some key points:

  • Deal with it quickly: don’t let it drag on and make working life even more difficult for all the people involved
  • Be careful who you choose to hear the grievance: picking someone who is not seen as neutral will backfire because the employee will not perceive this as fair
  • If you’re hearing a grievance, be open-minded and not influenced by what one side has told you until you’ve listened to everyone involved
  • If the grievance is a saga involving conduct over years, break it down into the key issues and go through them one at a time
  • Always remember that HR people, ACAS and other business experts are there to help – don’t suffer in silence.

You can also see suggestions for options to change a difficult working relationship here.